FILM REVIEW: A Beautiful Mind
With the rise of social media and pervasive advertising of cosmetics and apparel in this day and age, the definition of beauty has been warped. A Beautiful Mind follows three Singaporean youths – a male teen pageant winner, a fashion student, and a winner of Miss Singapore Personality 2012 – as it investigates what defines beauty for the Y-Generation.
Director: Justin Chen
Cast: Brice Tan, Goh Yiling, Joey Low
Runtime: 11 min
Review by Leon Lau
Social media has arguably made us more narcissistic by enforcing ideal standards of beauty. From flawless skin to symmetrical faces, there is undeniably more pressure to look good. Yet, what is beauty to our generation, and why have we gotten so obsessed with it?
A Beautiful Mind (2014) tackles these questions with earnesty in this unbiased documentary about the troubling beauty standards in Singapore. Despite being made in 2014, this documentary is even more relevant today because of the rise of social media.
One flaw that documentaries can commit is choosing to present only one side of an argument. In doing so it can create a skewed and biased viewpoint that can misinform people. Thankfully, A Beautiful Mind side steps these issues and presents us with varying opinions from different camps. The result is a satisfyingly well-rounded exploration on what beauty standards mean to different people.
The two most prominent opinions in the film come from Brice Tan and Joey Low. Brice Tan is a teen pageant winner who used to be ostracised for being obese, but after losing weight believes that outer beauty is more important than inner beauty. He speaks openly about the advantages of looking good, such as receiving perks like public approval and better self esteem.
On the other hand, we have Joey Low, a fashion media student who believes that looks are purely temporal and inner beauty is more important in the long run. She raises important points like how the media creates an unrealistic portrayal of how people should look because of photoshopped images and airbrushing.
The opinions here are not radically new, but through clever editing, director Justin Chen and editor Nabil Nazri smartly juxtaposes these well-spoken youths against each other. This creates an eye-opening look into how the current generation struggles with these questions, which makes for some enlightening moments of clarity. We understand and empathise with each point of view because the documentary refuses to take sides and gives everyone a voice to speak.
One nitpick I have with the documentary is with its inconsistent visual style. It is presented in mostly black and white, which does help to create a serious atmosphere for its subject matter. But the film intercuts this with coloured segments, seemingly at random which constantly took me out of the experience. It also wraps up pretty quickly, which makes the documentary feel like a truncated summary of the issue instead of a deep dive.
In the end, A Beautiful Mind packs an impressive amount of content in its eleven minutes, and serves as an eye-opening look into the modern day perception of beauty. It sheds light on important issues with impressive restraint, which can help to create a healthy jumping-off point for discussion.